capoeira é alegria para mim

Capoeira is a treasure to my life.  This great gift first appeared precisely when I most needed it, and has transformed and elevated me in every dimension: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  When I travel, it offers an international community and a great way to make new friends.  It was capoeira that first brought me to Brazil, for a batizado back in August 2009.  I’ve been playing capoeira for over three years now, and will continue as long as possible.  If you would like to know more about the art and sport of capoeira, here are a three links to get you started:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira

This video features Contre Mestre Girafa (in black) playing in a roda:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oUjymFE838

This video is from a former grupo I trained with, and features many of meus capoeiristas amigos, and possibly the back of my head:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lESyi2sQAq0

While living in BH, I train with a small, special group known as Vadiart Capoeira, led by Contre Mestre Girafa.  We meet twice weekly, and occasionally on weekends for rodas in the parques.  No two classes are ever the same, in any of the incredible groups I have trained with, and Vadiart is no exception.  One class was all about tires:  we tore the wire out of old car tires to string berimbaus, and we performed various exercises with an old tractor tire that weighed too much for me to lift alone.

One day we visited another academia where Mestre Manso teaches, upstairs inside a large gym with hundreds of people sweating to various gym activities.  Mestre Manso’s training was pretty grueling, as he seems to prefer a low game (low game = much squatting = sore thighs and buttocks for days after).  That night I witnessed Mestre Manso employ a scorpion move (where the capoeirista appears to attack with his head, but instead uses his feet over his head…just unbelievable!) with complete precision towards his opponent in the roda, so it was well worth all the sweat and soreness.

Mestre Manso, Contre Mestre Girafa, e capoeiristas

Mestre Manso, Contre Mestre Girafa, e capoeiristas

Last week, Contre Mestre Girafa drove us to a nearby favela, and we trained in a makeshift church.  The church is very simple, and the pews were moved aside for locals to sit and watch.  These classes were also offered free to the local children, which was a real treat for me.

A few of the children wear abadas and cordas, and seem to train somewhat regularly.  Most appear to just give it a try for the first time.  Many children are too young or shy to try, but sit and watch and laugh at their braver siblings and friends.

One of the girls hugged my back and arm, clung to me, as I was stretching on the ground.  It just melts me, how affectionate and loving the children are!  Many children are very interested in me as a foreigner.  “What’s up!” they giggle and ask me to say things in my funny voice and accent.  They cannot believe I live here in BH.

Another time, a three year old named Davi had awkwardly caught his arm inside the large silver chain necklace his brother asked him to wear while he trained.   I was asked to free him from his entanglement, which fortunately I was able to do.  Contra Mestre Girafa tries to keep me focused on training, but the little ones are just too darn cute, and readily catch my attention.  At the end of class I wrote the names of the children, and let them draw in my notepad.  Sadly, as we drove away, 9:30 or so at night, many children remained in the street.

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